A relatively new anti-creationist book

It’s a slow news day here at WEIT, and my brain is equally slow. Let me just call your attention to a new review of an anticreationist book by Darren Naish at his Sci Am site Tetrapod Zoology. The review is new but the book has aged a bit: it’s the 15-month-old God’s Word or Human Reason?: An Inside Perspective on Creationism :

If you look at the contents on Amazon, you’ll see six chapters by five authors, three of them listed as editors. The chapters are largely about the evidence for evolution, but there’s some stuff about religion, too. That’s because, as Naish notes, the book has a unique take on evolution (“YEC” is “young Earth creationism”):

It has been said many times in the battle against the lies and miseducation of the creationists that among the most important opponents of YEC are those who were once YECs themselves. And here’s the kicker, because all the contributing authors of God’s Word or Human Reason? (there are five) are exactly that. Testimonials provided by each explain what it was that led them to doubt, question and ultimately reject YEC. These personal stories are fascinating, in one case heartbreaking.

And there’s apparently some good stuff in there. Here’s an analysis I particularly like:

Kane’s review of what we currently think about the evolution of birds from among theropod dinosaurs, for example, is one of the best reviews of this area yet published, combining historical review with a tour of key taxa in the ‘theropod to bird’ transition (Kane 2016b). The fact that fossil discoveries repeatedly matched predictions made about the evolutionary history of this group of animals is rightly emphasised. And what, then, of the AiG claim that the existence of a discrete ‘dinosaur kind’ and ‘bird kind’ is consistent with creationism, not evolution? (creationists use the term ‘baramin’ for these discrete ‘created kinds’).

Here’s a cool figure showing (with the caption) that the morphologial “gap” between dinosaurs and birds is gradually disappearing as new fossils are found—one of the predictions that evolution makes and that the Templeton-funded dude S. Orestis Palermos said couldn’t make. Note that the multidimensional morphological gaps between dinos and birds are vanishing over a period of only nine years from 2000-2009. It’s an excellent way to test evolutionary predictions.

Tests of the ‘baraminological’ claims of the YECs (which assert that ‘dinosaur kinds’ and ‘bird kinds’ are distinct and were surely created differently) have been falsified, repeatedly, even in the statistical tests devised by YECs themselves. Palaeontologist Phil Senter (who has critically examined and tested YEC claims in several published articles, and is assuredly not a YEC) used these multidimensional tests himself in a 2011 paper, and some of his diagrams are shown here. These images show taxa known to science in 2000 and 2009, the obvious fact being that any perceived distinctions between groups are increasingly filled by newly discovered taxa. Credit: Senter 2011

Now it’s sad that this book has gotten only five Amazon reviews (all have five stars, though), and I do want to get it except that it’s only in hardback, it’s out of stock, and I have absolutely no more room for books, either in my office or at home. Perhaps I can request it from the library. Regardless, it looks like a good companion book for WEIT, as it expressly addresses creationist claims from the viewpoint of former creationists. I mention religion only once in WEIT, although I do try to show the truth of evolution in contrast to the predictions of creationism.

As I learned from Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, people’s acceptance of evolution seems to be based not on knowing the evidence, but on adherence to a set of “tribal values” that identify you as a member of a group. (Presumably in this case it’s the group of rationalists and non-religious people.) As Pinker notes, the NSF once gave a test of scientific literacy on which the question “Humans evolved from other organisms” demanded an “agree or disagree.” It turned out that the answer to that had NO CORRELATION with performance on any other index of science literacy. It turned out that that question was really a test of religiosity and not scientific knowledge, and thus it was dropped from the test.

If that’s the case, then it’s more important than ever for people to really know what the theory of evolution really says, and what the evidence is for that theory. This book appears to help fill that gap.

 

h/t: Paul

 

47 Comments

  1. Stephen Caldwell
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Looked up the publisher, Inkwater. It’s a self-publishing outfit, so I imagine the initial run was small. Hopefully the authors will order a reprint.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Inkwater claim to HAVE STOCK , but two weeks to supply. I expect they print & bind to order – even single copies.

      • rom
        Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        Based on my experience of printing out of stock books they print more than a single copy.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

          Print On Demand [POD] is a thing now – it allows for a very large backlist without stock holding, pulping etc. Inkwater probably use a POD service provider [the equipment is hugely expensive] & send them batch orders weekly for a selection of books which will include single book prints. All digital including the covers. Choice of toner-based or ink-based product from the larger POD providers.

          • rom
            Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

            My experience at Amazon – there was only one book left – I ordered it (my local book store told me it print on demand and I would be better off to order it through Amazon). I did. The next day Amazon said they had 10 of the book and the price had gone up by 20 $.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

              Amazon will not accept one item of stock in their warehouses under their FBA [Fulfilled By Amazon] scheme – each unique code has a place on the shelves & it’s not worth their while to have just one item on that shelf [maybe high value items in the four digit dollars are an exception. Dunno]. So if an OOS book is FBA it can take months to be stocked & then delivered.

              On the other hand if you order DIRECTLY from Inkwater it will be supplied directly to you by Inkwater Press as a one-off. I clicked a dozen items on their lists & they’re all marked as in stock [but wait] or epub digital [immediate] or order via Amazon for the Kindle digital.

              Their is a place on the book page to ask the publisher to consider producing a Kindle version – which would be easy to do for a POD company like Inkwater.

          • Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

            It’s actually not a POD run! Our initial run was 500 books, but the publisher is constrained to sending out smaller batches to Amazon once their stock gets low. Evidently, the “out of stock” message is an error on Amazon’s end as they still have several copies listed in their inventory. This arrangement is frustrating, but such is the price you pay using a vanity publisher. In any case, I’ve just made the book available for purchase directly from me, as I still have many boxes in my apartment: https://emilywilloughby.com/wordorreason

            • rom
              Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

              Thanks Emily
              Not sure if you at replying to me or Michael.
              I was referring to a different book “Freedom and Belief” by Strawson. Originally printed in 2010 – a little off topic, but it is interesting how the book industry works.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

              Sorry for my misinformation Emily. I’ll order from you with a drawing! Do I have to use Paypal?

              • Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

                Thanks a lot, Michael! Yes, at the moment we’re only set up to receive Paypal payments for direct purchases, as per the website form: https://emilywilloughby.com/wordorreason But if you’d rather order it from Amazon, you should receive it quickly despite the erroneous “out of stock” message.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

                I want the drawing! Swallowed my PayPal wariness & ordered via thee. Order number: #18084004

              • Posted March 26, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

                Awesome, thanks so much!

            • Bob
              Posted March 27, 2018 at 7:52 am | Permalink

              Thank you. Order placed.

            • Posted March 27, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

              So ordered!

              /@

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 30, 2018 at 2:12 am | Permalink

              Hi Emily

              I ordered your book five weeks ago
              No notification of despatch to the UK
              Sent you an email nine days ago, but no reply [Order Confirmation: #18084004]

              Cheers

              • Posted April 30, 2018 at 2:28 am | Permalink

                M –

                Judging by her Facebook page, the delay is due to all the personalised sketches she’s doing. Which are very good, btw – they’re proper artworks, not just doodles.

                /@

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted April 30, 2018 at 6:39 am | Permalink

                Thanks Ant. I don’t do fb or twitter. Can you ask via fb for me using my order #? Also no answer to my email to her of 21st Apr.

              • Posted April 30, 2018 at 7:38 am | Permalink

                Sure! /@

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted April 30, 2018 at 7:43 am | Permalink

                You’re a gent. Thanks

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          The use of only two colours on the cover is very POD

          • Posted March 27, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

            Incidentally, the copy of the book in the image Darren posted was a softcover POD prerelease, but I assure you the actual hardcover is of much higher production value (and more than two colors!). 🙂

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted March 27, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

              I’ve seen some of your drawings. Impressed & I await dispatch when you’ve had time to personalise my book [no rush at all, got three books on the ‘to read’ shelf ]. A non-POD multi-colour cover is a bonus. Thank you.

  2. jaxkayaker
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully they’ll come out with an e-book. That would solve the problem of not having enough shelf space. For me, it solves the problem of not having a permanent residence.

  3. busterggi
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Darren always writes good stuff. I’d read his blog for years.

  4. rom
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Some of evolution – the biochemical aspects – are extremely complex. So I accept these tribally speaking. Having said that there is a whack load of evidence for geologic time that is dotted with a coherent if incomplete fossil data set.

    Evolution in a nutshell:
    If we have a system that replicates,
    But the replication is not completely accurate,
    And if there are differential rates of successful replication because of the environment.

    Then we must have evolution.

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    The canard about “God’s Word vs. Human Reason” plays a recurring role in Ken Ham’s creation museum.

    It’s most bizarre manifestation is in a plaque that says “God’s Word says ‘I am that I am’. Human wisdom says ‘I think therefore I am'”. (I have seen a photograph. I am not making this up!!!)

    I think that when the New Testament denigrates “worldly wisdom”, it’s really about the mentality informing publications like “Cosmopolitan”, not science.
    However, Bertrand Russell is correct that the Bible is not big on praising intelligence (except perhaps in the case of military shrewdness.)

    • rom
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      • mfdempsey1946
        Posted March 26, 2018 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        Popeye the Sailorman is the greatest American philosopher.

        • Posted March 26, 2018 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

          Popeye the Sailoryam*

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted March 27, 2018 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

            Or Top Cat.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 27, 2018 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          Yogi !

    • gluonspring
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      The canard about “God’s Word vs. Human Reason” plays a recurring role in Ken Ham’s creation museum.

      It’s most bizarre manifestation is in a plaque that says “God’s Word says ‘I am that I am’. Human wisdom says ‘I think therefore I am’”. (I have seen a photograph. I am not making this up!!!)

      As a kid and young adult I must have sat through hundreds of sermons whose point was, in essence, “Trusting your own thinking is tantamount to rebellion against God and such people will go to Hell”. I grew up literally afraid of my own thoughts, to say nothing of the godless thoughts of others written down in books. There are kids all over being taught this even now. It is cruel psychological abuse.

      • Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        I know! You can’t even think about God without getting scared of being smited. I hated it.

  6. Heather Hastie
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    With a bit of luck this publicity will lead to enough demand for another print run.

  7. glen1davidson
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    God’s Word or Human Reason?

    You want to actually think and learn, or just believe?

    Well, call it God’s Word, and let’s just believe. At least that’s Ham’s line.

    I got fed the line that you have to pray to receive God’s wisdom. Apparently God can twist your mind to make creationism seem sensible. Happily, God has not so blessed me.

    Glen Davidson

  8. Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi Dr. Coyne,

    As a long time fan and reader, I was totally tickled to see this blog post on my feed today! It is most frustrating that Amazon is listing the book as “out of stock” right after Darren’s review went up. According to my contact at the publisher, this is an error on Amazon’s end as they still have several copies listed in their inventory.

    In any case, I’ve been working with my web designer to get a direct-purchase page up on my website, which is finally live: https://emilywilloughby.com/wordorreason I still have several dozen boxes of books in my apartment ready to ship out ASAP.

    I would, however, be most obliged to offer you a free copy in exchange for a review, if that interests you.

  9. Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    It looks like you can also order it from one of the author’s website. Emily Willoughby is a scientific illustrator and paleoartist. Her work is quite beautiful. If you want the book, you’ll pay $40 in the US, a little more than Amazon, but she promises to draw the dinosaur of your choice on the title page!

    https://emilywilloughby.com/wordorreason

    • Posted March 26, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Ooops. Should have read the other comments first.

  10. Christopher
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    It’s already on my amazon wish list but I’m a bit on the broke side, so it’ll have to wait. I have one helluva long and expensive wish list already, thanks in great part to Darren Naish, so what’s one more book? I am probably the odd one out (well, not among WEIT readers) who dreams of winning the lottery just so I can buy all the books I want and have time to read them.

  11. djwcaw
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    “It has been said many times in the battle against the lies and miseducation of the creationists that among the most important opponents of YEC are those who were once YECs themselves. And here’s the kicker, because all the contributing authors of God’s Word or Human Reason? (there are five) are exactly that.”
    Are they just former YECs and still remain religious (ie Evolutionary creationism or Old Earth creationism) or given up their faith completely?

    • Posted March 26, 2018 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      Two of us are now atheists (myself and T.M. Keesey), one is a deist (J. Kane), and the other two are Christians who accept the truth of evolution (J. Comer & G. Morton).

  12. Posted March 26, 2018 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    It seems like an interesting book! I’ll see if I can afford it after finishing my current batch of books.

    • Posted March 26, 2018 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

      And I must add: The art looks phenomenal!

  13. Abigail
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    I’ll have to check this one out; it looks excellent. I love Emily Willoughby’s palaeoart!

  14. Posted March 27, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Looks lovely and sorely needed.

  15. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    the NSF once gave a test of scientific literacy on which the question “Humans evolved from other organisms” demanded an “agree or disagree.” […] It turned out that that question was really a test of religiosity and not scientific knowledge, and thus it was dropped from the test.

    I would have thought that for the question of “scientific literacy”, then the accepting of religious bullshit as true is pretty much a shibboleth. If you accept religious bullshit, then you are scientifically illiterate, regardless of your PhD in quantum mechanics and your pHD in the chemistry of deuterated acids.

    Darren Naish Twitters as @TetZoo ; I didn’t know that he SciAm’d as well. I’ve seen him appear in several “popular Science” documentaries recently, too. Every reason to expect a good book. And having just had a new pile added to the bedside table … it’ll just have to go onto the wishlist.


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